Unusual suspects

Unusual suspects

Who’s behind this?

It was a natural question reverberating  through Turkish newsrooms in the immediate aftermath of a  daring assault on Nov. 30 at Topkapı Palace.

As a fateful one-hour shootout ensued between a lone gunman and security forces, the variety of answers that observers could come up with made it worth lifting our gaze from the eurozone’s perils – at least for a few hours.

After all, the options could be:
- Kurdish militants who aimed to “exact revenge” over the ongoing military operations in the southeast
against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). As you know, alleged PKK militants are the “usual suspects” for everything nowadays.

- Chechen gunmen who wanted to make sure that reported threats against Turkey by Chechen Islamistseparatist leader Doku Umarov did not go unheeded: In a recent speech broadcast on a Chechen website, Umarov vowed “retaliation” against Turkey after three Chechens were killed in Istanbul by alleged Russian agents Sept. 16.

- Groups who wanted to strike Turkey for perceived “neo-Ottomanist” tendencies that have gone hand
in hand with rising Turkish influence in the Middle East and North Africa at the expense of traditional Arab powerhouses. No target would have more symbolic value: Topkapı Palace, which served as the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire for four centuries.

- Mercenaries who could be out to “punish” Turkey for the role it played in Libya, the role it has been playing in Syria, or the role it accepted to play in regards to the NATO missile shield that targets Iran’s military capabilities.

- Some “pro-Taliban” Islamist group that is unhappy because of Turkey’s role in the ongoing NATO occupation of Afghanistan. For more detail, see yesterday’s daily Vatan, which claims in its headline that a Nov. 16 Predator strike in Waziristan killed 18 Turkish Islamists.

- A crazy gunman that came to Turkey among the many injured “Libyan freedom fighters” who are apparently roaming freely in and out of Turkish hospitals – on the night of Nov. 20, two of these men went out on a drunken stroll on Istanbul’s İstiklal Avenue, were beaten up badly and
then attempted to take a few nurses hostage after they were sent back to a hospital for treatment for their new injuries.

As these possibilities – and maybe a few more – were discussed, the attacker happened to be a  Libyan national who recently entered Turkey. His aims remain a mystery as I write this column.

What I am bothered by is this weird “possibilities list” itself, which begs an answer to a simple  question:

How did Turkey end up here?

After the Justice and Development Party came to power in 2003, it promised a “zero-problem” policy with Turkey’s neighbors, an overall foreign policy that promotes stability and peace and a domestic policy that aims to solve decades-old political problems. Then, how did it come to this?

As Turkey ventures deeper into the cauldron of conflicts that is simply called the Middle East, its citizens deserve a proper answer.